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Mariners homestand preview: Familiar faces coming to town when Seattle hosts Rangers, Cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

After winning six in a row on the road their last trip, then losing six in a row at home, the Mariners evened out on the road against the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, splitting the trip at 3-3.

Seattle (16-11) returns to T-Mobile Park on Thursday night after losing their last three games. First up is AL West rival Texas for a four-game series, and then the Chicago Cubs for two games.

All six games will be broadcast on television on Root Sports Northwest and radio on 710 ESPN.

MARINERS HOMESTAND PREVIEW

Thursday — Opponent: Texas, 7:10 p.m. Pitching probables: Taylor Hearn (MLB debut) vs. Marco Gonzales (4-0, 3.32).

Friday — Texas, 7:10 p.m. Shelby Miller (1-1, 7.63) vs. Yusei Kikuchi (1-1, 4.68).

Saturday — Texas, 6:10 p.m. Mike Minor (2-2, 3.21) vs. Mike Leake (2-2, 4.30).

Sunday — Texas, 1:10 p.m. Lance Lynn (2-2, 6.51) vs. Erik Swanson (0-2, 4.61).

Monday — Off day.

Tuesday — Chicago Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Cole Hamels (3-0, 2.77) vs. Felix Hernandez (1-2, 3.91).

Wednesday — Chicago Cubs, 3:40 p.m. Jon Lester (1-0, 2.57) vs. Marco Gonzales.

Thursday — Off day.

About the Rangers (12-10): Texas is off to a surprisingly fast start, including taking two of three games from two-time defending AL West champion Houston last week. ... Joey Gallo has been an all-or-nothing slugger since his breakout season two years ago — his batting average barely cleared .200 in 2017 and 2018 — but his plate discipline has improved significantly. Early on, he has slashed at .300/.412/.729, leads the AL in slugging, and his 1.140 OPS trails only Angels’ perennial All-Star Mike Trout. Gallo has eight homers so far and finished fifth in the majors in 2017 with 41, and third in the majors last season with 40. ... Elvis Andrus (.345/.394/.540) is among the AL batting leaders, including ranking tied for third in hits (30). ... Former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo (.307/.416/.533) will make yet another return to Seattle as an ever-steady presence leading off for Texas. Of Choo’s 23 hits this season, 10 are doubles, which ranks tied for third in the AL. ... The Mariners were originally projected to face Adrian Sampson in the series opener, but that changed when the Skyline High School and Bellevue College product made a three-inning relief appearance Wednesday against Oakland.

About the Cubs (11-10): Pitcher Jon Lester (hamstring) will be activated Thursday for Chicago’s series finale against the Dodgers. The Tacoma native was the Opening Day pitcher for the Cubs and made three starts before being placed on the 10-day injured list on April 10. Lester skipped a minor-league rehab assignment, and is now projected to pitch against the Mariners next week, for the first time since 2016. He shut out the Mariners in his past two starts against them, including allowing just four hits and striking out seven through six innings in his most recent trip to Seattle in 2014 with the A’s. The Bellarmine Prep product has a 6-4 career record and 3.27 ERA against the Mariners in 13 starts with 88 strikeouts. ... Offensively, the Cubs have batters than can carry them for short stretches. Javier Baez (.315/.351/.640) was the runner-up NL MVP last season, and Jason Heyward (.339/.461/.559) and Willson Contreras (.322/.467/.712) have heated up early. Despite slow starts, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are dangerous. ... With Lester returning and Chicago on a recent hot streak — the club has won 8 of its past 10 — the Mariners might be catching the Cubs at the wrong time.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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